ALL roads lead to La Castellana Friday night as the southern Negros Occidental town once again showcased its brightest festivity -- the Bailes de Luces, which for the people of the locality is their way of celebrating hope.
Witnessed by about 10,000 spectators coming in and outside the province, the Bailes de Luces Festival Arena Dance Competition grandiosely capped the centennial celebration of La Castellana's birth and township.
Mayor Rhumyla Mangilimutan, at the sidelines of the competition, said the "Festival of Lights" symbolizes the hope of the people of La Castellana and a guide for the town in its aspiration for a better future.
Mangilimutan said it likewise mirrors the forever-burning desire of La Castelleños to excel in all endeavors and strive towards the glory of their beloved town.
"It is a symbol of triumph of all our undertakings, a harvest of all our labor," she said, adding that "Bailes de Luces is indeed a celebration of hope and thanksgiving -- hope for a better year ahead and thanksgiving for the year that was."
This year, 11 groups from three categories wowed the jampacked auditorium and Municipal Hall grounds. Two schools competed for elementary and high school categories, respectively, and seven in the barangay category.
Clad in colorful costumes using light emitting materials as main props, performers danced to a Latin beat. Bailes de Luces has been compared to the Rio De Janeiro Carnival of Brazil.
Performances also traced back the history of the festival, which was first popularized by using "sulo" or fire torch as main source of lights.
From its humble beginning in 2000, Bailes de Luces, Spanish for Dances of Lights, is now recognized as one of the best festivals in the country. In 2012, it has conquered the national stage when it competed for the inter-town finals of ABS-CBN's "It's Showtime."
Mangilimutan said the annual festivity has put La Castellana on the top, particularly on the tourism map of the Philippines.
Thousands of local and foreign tourists have been coming to the town every January 5 just to witness and experience the must-see festival.
Through the years, the Municipal Government has come up with various innovations including the concept and grander switching of light, said Mangilimutan.
The local government is eyeing for bigger venue next year to cater more audience, she said, adding they aim to expand the grandeur and magnificence of Bailes de Luces, which has been institutionalized through a special ordinance.
After the jaw-dropping performances captured by both eyes and camera lenses of the audience, La Castellana Elementary School I emerged as champion for the elementary category. La Castellana Elementary School II was second place.
For high school category, Saint Vincent High School bagged this year's title. It was followed by La Castellana National High School at second place.
Barangay Robles, meanwhile, was the champion for barangay category.
Adjudged as second place was the competing group composed of Barangays Masulog and Mansalanao. Barangays Cabacungan and Cabagna-an, on the other hand, finished third.
Champion for each category received P100,000 in cash prize while second and third place winners received P75,000 and P50,000, respectively.
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on January 08, 2018.
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